The missing feature that stops Gmail from being a killer email client


I like Gmail. In fact I really like it. It's quick; reliable; clutter-free; has a brilliant search facility and there are lots of groovy extensions that you can use with it - my favourites so far, for the record, are Todoist and Hubspot Sales. In nearly every respect it does everything you'd expect from an email client, and with a minimum of fuss - and as a result my Microsoft Outlook icon is now generally left languishing unloved and unclicked upon on my desktop.

But there's a big BUT, which means my copy of Outlook still gets a look-in.

Gmail doesn't let you group by sender

I can live without a host of sorting options - I have no particular need to sort by date, subject or indeed sender (just as well, as Gmail doesn't let you do any of that either). But what I find very difficult to live without in Gmail is group-by-sender functionality. The reason is this: for most small to medium sized businesses, and certainly my own, a sender represents not just an individual but a project. When I group my emails by sender in an email program, I essentially get an overview of all the client projects I'm currently working on and all the communications relating to them. This helps me to identify important emails about particular projects easily and respond to them; it also allows me to bulk delete or archive mail about specific projects quickly.

Gmail afficiandos will be quick to respond that you can group by sender using the search box and typing "from:" in it followed by a sender's name. That's fine so far is it goes, but this approach only lets you see emails from one sender. You can also use a combination of filters and labels to do some grouping by sender, but it's messy, time-consuming and presumes that you know the email address of every individual who's ever likely to send you an email.

Until Google offers group-by-sender functionality (and I fear it never will: the company seems extremely averse to offering us poor Gmail users any sorting / grouping options other than the dreaded Conversation View), or until somebody comes up with a suitable extension, I suspect many people will reluctantly keep their unloved copy of Outlook installed on their desktop machines. Tip: if you use Gmail on a smartphone, you should really check out Inky - an awesome app for sorting, grouping and filtering your messages.

Got any thoughts on Gmail and sorting / grouping messages, or any workarounds of your own? Do let us know in the comments section below. (On a related note, you may also find our Google Apps vs Office 365 comparison of interest).